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State Sen. Nicholas Scutari. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Scutari: Another run at redistricting likely

By Nikita Biryukov, December 17 2018 5:37 pm

Though their push to change the way the state handles redistricting failed, Democrats are likely to make a similar push at some point down the line, State Sen. Nicholas Scutari said Monday.

“I think so, but I’m not certain. I think we are. I mean, I’ve been working on it for three years,” Scutari, who sponsored the redistricting constitutional amendment in the Senate, said when asked if they’d mount another campaign to change the state’s redistricting. “I think what we heard at the hearing is that people have expressed some interest in making changes to our constitution with respect to how this is selected, so I’ve heard those concerns.”

The constitutional amendment would have reduced the power of party state chairs by reducing the number of members they appointed to the redistricting commission from five to two. Republican and Democratic leaders from both chambers would have been able to make two picks each to the commission.

The measure would also have imposed a fairness formula on at least a quarter of the state’s legislative districts. That formula would have required vote margins to fall within 5% of the average result of statewide elections over the preceding 10 years.

Widespread opposition from liberal and nonpartisan groups as well as New Jersey Republicans, Gov. Phil Murphy and Nationally-recognized Democrats effectively killed the bill, and Scutari said he pulled the bill because it looked like the bill might fail in the Senate.

“My concern was I wasn’t sure it was going to pass,” Scutari said. “If I’m going to put on a piece of legislation or a constitutional amendment, I want to make sure it has a chance of passage, but when there’s a lot of opposition, especially from traditional groups that had been in favor of it, you gotta say ‘wait, let’s see what we can do better.’”

Sens. Brian Stack, Nicholas Sacco and Richard Codey, a former governor, came out against the bill, and Sen. Nia Gill was expected to vote against it. That means the amendment’s many opponents needed to flip only one additional vote to stop the amendment.

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